Q: How do you help the guys in the locker room who don't have Super Bowl experience balance all of the excitement with the need to still prepare for the biggest game of the year?
DM: I think the environment that we have going on just right now really forces you to be on the football side, I think. We win Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, even a little bit of Wednesday it's kind of like all the excitement; we're going to a Super Bowl. You don't really think about anything else, and then I think over the last really 24 hours going back to yesterday, coming in, having a good practice, then today really, really getting on it. I think guys are starting to feel like we're just preparing for another game, and I think that's a key feeling to have that mentality and just preparing, digging in and getting ready to play in another game. Obviously, it's the biggest game of the year. It's the game we all want to be playing in, all 32 teams. But I think you need to be able to do what you've done all year as far as preparation, breaking down a team, knowing what they do. I think we're at that point where guys are feeling that and your family or whoever you have dealing with all the logistics part, you try to put that on them and deal with it that way.
Q: Once you get to Houston, how do you get guys to channel into the game as opposed to the spectacle of the Super Bowl?
DM: I think once you get there, we'll start with the media day and I think you'll get to enjoy that. You'll do what you need to do there and then I think we do a good job here of flipping the page and then getting right back into our daily routine. While we're on the road in Houston we'll try to make everything very similar to what we do here and I think that's the key to any player, you develop a routine. You've played all these games this year, 18 games. You have a routine now. You have what you do on your Wednesday. You have what you don on Thursday. Once we get down there, media day Monday, then Tuesday, and by the time we get to Wednesday it's just your regular game routine. It's your week. I don't know, we haven't - we don't know the schedule yet, but I'm pretty sure the schedule will be very similar to what we do. I think the key to the older guys is once we finish, as a team it's to get guys doing the things that we usually do whether that's going to watch film for another two hours, you doing that, and then spending some time with your family.
Q: There have been six times when the league's top offense and top defense have been in the Super Bowl together, and the defense has won five of those games. Do you think defense still wins championships in the NFL?
DM: Yeah, but I think every year is different. I think that's a cool statistic for the fans and you can write pretty good stories on it, I'm sure, but that probably won't help us much next Sunday. I think it's an interesting stat, but we've got to go out there and we want to play well and prove that it will come down to us. It will come down to us executing and trying to slow down their great offense.
Q: There have been a lot of offensive rules changes that have made it easier for the offense. Has the challenge gotten more difficult to be a top defense?
DM: Oh definitely. I mean, touchdowns sell. It's part of playing defense but it's something we all enjoy.
Q: Can you comment on the greatness of Bill Belichick?
DM: Yeah, I mean I think the thing for us as players is we get to really see his insight on how he views the game, especially defensively. When I came in he was very active with us defensively. I've learned a ton just from the little things he sees. I've been in games at corner where he's talking about the way the wind is blowing and how it would carry and how it would affect if you get a fade to that side rather than a fade to the other side, so those little things that I don't think everyone will break down a game and try to view all those things. He really tries to break the game down to every inch that will help you win. I think he's really done a great job for me since I've been here of just finding ways to win. I find myself a lot of times looking at the game the same way. 'Well, if we do this, if I do that, that will make this better. That will help this guy.' So I think just his insight and the way he views the game helps us out as players because if you're here long enough, you get to pick up on those things and you're kind of turned in that direction.
Q: How have you seen Malcolm Butler change since the last Super Bowl?
DM: I think the cool thing is I really haven't seen him change. He's been a guy who back then was a lot lower on the depth chart, but every time he steps on the field he's very competitive. I think if you go back to that game, a lot of people talk about that one play, but if you go back to that season, he had times where he came in and he was on Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffrey when we played Chicago or Emmanuel Sanders when we played Denver, so he's never been a guy that worries about who he's matched up on. He has one level, he has one speed he plays at. He's a competitor and it has a lot to do with how he's come into the league. Being at West Alabama, he's always had to fight and grind and that's never changed for him. He's a very confident player who goes in and plays hard.
Q: How important will it be to recognize run versus pass against Atlanta as their run game is just as explosive as their passing game?
DM: Guys that are up front that the defense dictates different roles for us, and if you've got to play the run, you play the run, and if you've got to play the pass, you play the pass. I remember Vince [Wilfork] telling me that back in, I think 2011. He came in and told the whole secondary, he said, 'We've got the run. If you're supposed to be deep, stay deep.' He said it with a little different choice of words, but that stuck with me. The key to any big game is a guy that's supposed to be playing the deep middle part of the field not making a tackle in the run game for two yards. If you do that, you're wrong. I don't care really how it was drawn up. You're wrong. I think that's always the key when you play an offense like this that's so balanced. Guys just have to do their job. You have to play your assignment, whatever that is and whatever defense it is, you've got to just play your assignment.
Q: Is Dont'a Hightower the only player communicating defensive plays to the other guys as he wears the green dot or do you take a role in that as well?
DM: No, we're all in on it, especially as the game gets going and we've got corners chasing good receivers all around the field, sometimes they don't make it all the way back into the huddle, so sometimes I'm deep and [Patrick] Chung is there and Chung turns and gives me the call and I get it out to the other guys. So it's always a chain of communication. There are times when High [Dont'a Hightower] is not in and maybe it's Shea [McClellin], maybe it's [Kyle] Van Noy, maybe it's E. Rob [Elandon Roberts], they're making the calls. We get a lot of work at that in practice with different guys being in and having to communicate, so it's always that chain of passing along. As safeties we're always responsible for everybody getting in the back end. We try to do that to take some of the pressure off High, taking care of all the guys whether it's four or five of us in secondary at a time, and let High worry about the guys in front of him.
Q: Is the communication verbal or are there a lot of hand signals?
DM: It's always both. These last two games at home, it had to be hand signals. The crowd was rocking. It was loud. That forced us into our hand signals. We worked on that all the way back in OTAs when Bill [Belichick] had the speakers blasting and it's right behind us so we really can't talk. I think that worked from all the way back in May and June - hand signals and communication that you always see show up at different points of the season.
Q: What have you seen from Matt Ryan as it seems like he's taken his game to another level this season?
DM: We haven't played them a lot, so to me I always thought he was a great quarterback. When we played them last time he had a pretty good game against us, so I've always had that viewpoint. I think this year he's gotten a lot more attention for it, probably because they're in the Super Bowl, but he's been a great quarterback. I think for us, he's one of those very cerebral guys, too; reading coverages, knowing what you're in. it's hard to trick him. It's like when we're in training camp and we talk about practicing against Tom [Brady]. It's hard to draw up some defense that's going to fool him and he's going to have no idea. He knows pretty much everything. I'm sure with the extended time they have, he's seen every defense we have during the season. He'll be well-prepared. He's a guy who knows where he wants to put the ball and he has some great weapons. It's going to be a tough task. He knows what he's doing offensively and where he wants to go with the ball, so that's why you go out there and you average 40 points in the playoffs because your quarterback is on it and knows exactly what he wants to do with the offense.
Q: What stands out to you about Rob Ninkovich?
DM: Rob [Ninkovich] is a leader. For me, it was different. When I got here, he was already here. I didn't really know his backdrop or anything. I just knew he was a guy that was asked to be in a lot of different roles, and he always seemed to play pretty well, so I've always viewed him as a good player for us. He's always made a ton of plays since I've been here. For me, I really don't see [how he was] cut by two different teams even though he talks about it and he'll tell you that's been a big motivation for him, but he's definitely one of the hardest workers we've got here. I've leaned on him a lot to show me different things and I'm just happy it's a great relationship I have with him and he continues to be a leader of the defense and of the team. I think he's a guy that younger guys get to look at and see it doesn't matter where you start. He's been a captain here and he'll continue to make great plays for us.
Q: How much do you rely on your previous Super Bowl experience for this game?
DM: I think I've learned how to prepare for the game. It's a little different as far as [it's] kind of like a bye week, but it's the only game left; it's the Super Bowl. I think I've learned how to prepare better for myself. I think each player, you have to kind of find what works for you. I think it has allowed me to be a lot more relaxed, and calm, and knowing exactly what I want to do, and how I want to talk to the guys of what I'm thinking and doing different things like that. I think playing in the game before just lets you kind of be at ease. You're not really as worried about the logistics part. You know all of it will be taken care of; it'll all be done. You're just calm and now it's just focusing on playing the game. It's focusing on you being ready, you making sure that everybody else around you is ready. It's just the continued process of preparing and I think no team really does it better as far as just always being ready to go, being prepared and doing a step by step process of that. And it's hard, but I think it starts with Bill [Belichick] and him being on us and showing us the way.
Q: What makes Julio Jones the wide receiver that he is?
DM: You go down a long list. I mean big guy, 6' 3", 220 [pounds], 4.3 [40-yard dash], great hands, explosive in and out of cuts. We were just watching film on a double-move he ran against Green Bay and he didn't come down with it, but just out of the double-move in two more steps he was 10 more yards down the field it feels like. Usually big guys like that don't accelerate that fast. It usually takes times for them to get going, but he's very explosive, tough to tackle. I think a lot of times you hear Julio Jones and you think of the deep routes, the posts, the nines, but you don't think about the five-yard routes he catches on unders and breaks two tackles and scores a 60 or 70-yard touchdown. Really Matt Ryan is able to get him the ball in so many different areas. That makes it tough. You can't just sit there as a defense and say 'He's going to be here at the X.' He's going to be all over. He's going to be at the 'Z' sometimes, he's going to be inside of the slot, so tough. I think that probably gives a lot of credit to him learning the playbook and him being able to do a lot of different things. [He's] a very versatile receiver for them. Like I said before, we'll have another tough task this week, but you get into the playoffs and it doesn't get easy with these receivers. We'll have to really have all 11 guys ready to stop them. The biggest thing will be if he does catch the ball, is trying to make the tackle.
Q: Have you ever had a moment during the Super Bowl where the magnitude of the game kind of hits you and you're in awe?
DM: No, I mean once you get playing its just football. You're so locked in on what you've studied during the week and your preparation, what's going on in the game, that the Super Bowl is the last thing [on your mind]. Honestly, you just try to win a football game.
Q: Their running backs seem to be tackled often by opposing defensive backs because they get into the deeper levels of the defense. What have you seen from Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in that aspect?
DM: They're tough. It's hard in this league when you let these guys, if they get in the open field and you've got to have one or two guys just try to bring them down in a one-on-one situation. It's tough. [Devonta] Freeman is very elusive, so is [Tevin] Coleman. Those are guys that it's not even just breaking runs, it's when they split out and they run a route that a receiver runs and he catches the ball. Now you've got to try and tackle him, so they're both very elusive and tough in space, so it's going to be tough. If I'm in the deep middle I'm not going to be two yards [off the line of scrimmage], but even trying to get on that 10 yards is going to be tough. It's something that we talk about a lot in the secondary of trying to be a good secondary tackling team, trying to get all four or five of us that's on the field, if a run breaks through getting as many guys to the runner and trying to get him down.
Q: Can you talk about the positive leadership that Tom Brady brings to the team?
DM: I would just say how he is in the locker room. Honestly, most of us probably don't even see his interviews and things like that, but in the locker room he's always a positive guy. He's always trying to get guys going. You don't really see Tom [Brady] come in and have a bad day. He's always ready to go, prepared, and I think that professionalism rubs off on everybody else around him. All of the things that he has to go through and the things that he has to do to be the starting quarterback, to be Tom Brady, it would be easy to be frustrated at times, but he's always ready to go. I think everybody in the locker room, no matter if you play offense, defense, if you're a core special teams guy, you can see how to be a great player and how to be ready for work every day if you just watch him.
Q: You guys don't ever seem to get the recognition as a secondary that others across the league may get. Does that ever bother you guys?
DM: No, I don't think we care. I mean you said we're playing well. Usually people say we're not playing well, so I mean we don't really care. We go out there and the way we look at it, we must be doing OK. We've won some games, we're playing in the Super Bowl, so whether we get credit, whether we don't get credit, I think the biggest thing for us is we enjoy playing with each other. We've enjoyed each game that we've gotten to play together. That's all we talked about in the playoffs, is earning another opportunity to play another game. Now we're here at the end of the road and we're just focused on trying to go out there and play well one last time this year.
Q: Do you guys have a nickname for yourselves as a secondary?
DM: No, we just play football.